Guest Videos: Volcanic Lightning

One year ago today, an intense lightning storm occurred over the South Pacific:

There were a few other things going on, too.

My favorite quote: “What fun is an apocalyptic day without the full moon?”

But it’s the January 15th lightning that’s making headlines lately.

Per this paper:

4.1. Volcanic lightning observations

The HTHH eruption column produced a prodigious amount of volcanic lightning. The data we examined were summary data from the GDP360 instruments operated by Vaisala, Inc. The eruption the previous day, January 14, produced >190 000 flashes over 20 ​h (S. Ryan, writt. comm.). The stronger main eruption on January 15 produced >400 000 flashes in total with 200 000 flashes in the peak hour (S. Ryan, writt. comm.).

By conducting a frame-by-frame analysis of the same publicly available data (Churchill, unpublished footage) containing raw CG stroke counts by intensity, and interpolating the time of each stroke count from the underlain and correlated Himiwari-8 satellite footage, we obtained >700 000 sources (Fig. 2; Supplementary Table S1). During the strongest stage of the main eruption, the number of flashes was 80% of worldwide lightning during the most active hour! These observations are unprecedented.

But on January 15th, 2022, Hunga Tonga’s amazing plume and shock waves held our attention, not those bright flashes in the cloud.

However, we were fascinated by volcanic lightning TWO years ago, as Taal Volcano erupted on Luzon in the Philippines:

Someone actually explained that in tweets!

Volcanic lightning is fascinating stuff, but it gets complicated quickly.

For a casual Sunday Morning Volcano post, let’s just learn some lightning basics —

— and check out how research into volcanic lightning is making things safer for air travelers:

Some lagniappe:

Green lightning at Chaiten, 2008:

Featured image: Oliver Spalt via Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0.

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